Review: Gathering of the Clouds at City Hall, 2/24/12

Categories: Concert Reviews

Tom Murphy
Overcasters at City Hall. More photos from Gathering of the Clouds 2012.

Gathering of the Clouds Day 2 @ City Hall | 2/24/12
One of the main reasons for the festival was the release of the new Overcasters album, Curses/Prayers and as usual, Overcasters delivered a solid set of music. Bathed in various shades and hues of shifting light over the course of the show, with highlights striking band members here and there in time with the dynamics and sonic flourishes, the stage looked like a window into a world where things are more vivid and less naturalistic. Guitarist John Nichols crouched and stared out into the crowd like a prowling beast and Kurt Ottaway whirled and then idled up to the mic to deliver words in his signature combination of subtle vibrato and sustained warm tones.

Tom Murphy
Overcasters at City Hall. More photos from Gathering of the Clouds 2012.
Todd Spriggs and Erin Tidwell seemed to have locked in stronger than ever with both putting in a flawless performance that allowed Nichols and Ottaway to jump off with guitars in a tight, yet expansive explorations of sounds to match the colors washing the stage. Yes, the songs have a melancholy character, but the energy with which the band delivered it suggested not wallowing in a downer mood, but finding a way to turn a bad scene inside your mind into something inspirational.

Tom Murphy
Glass Homes at City Hall. More photos from Gathering of the Clouds 2012.
The beginning of the second night of Gathering of the Clouds 2 started off with a bang with the raw, nervy energy that seems to be plugged directly into Glass Homes. Without much of a hitch, Nick Salmon and Brian Blaney switched around instrumentation with the latter playing bass with processed sounds and the former both setting off programmed sequences and playing live electronics when not fronting the band and playing guitar. During the breakdown section of "End It" the collision of sounds sounded like Salmon and Blaney were ready to take the title literally.

Musically it was reminiscent of The Cure gone aggressively cathartic or Cursive stripped down to the barest nerve. At what would have been the end, Salmon announced that it was supposed to be their last song but "We're going to be that dick band and play one more short one and hopefully it's a crowd-pleaser." With a menacing look and savage guitar work to match the rhythms, maybe the last song wasn't a crowd-pleaser in a conventional sense but it justified being "that dick band" that took up a little more time.

Tom Murphy
Wire Faces at City Hall. More photos from Gathering of the Clouds 2012.
While Wire Faces played, a few people walked up to me and asked me who it was and remarked how great the band was. I didn't recognized them but definitely concurred. Reminded me of the kind of confident spirit of The Ex and the spiky grooves of The Rapture. Shane Zweygardt somehow sang with the ferocity of a Guy Picciotto while playing drums with a propulsive flair and drive. Few people can do this and pull it off without sacrificing something in either skill set but that guy also managed to be charismatic in doing both exceedingly well. Menyus Borocz created dynamic tension throughout the show that allowed for Zweygardt to erupt with emotion and Ian Haygood to wrap all of it with resonant, wiry guitar. All three guys looked visibly very excited to play and that swept you up in the music with them.

Tom Murphy
Le Divorce at City Hall. More photos from Gathering of the Clouds 2012.
This was the second official Le Divorce show with Kim Baxter on drums and Mike King on bass. Knowing when this line-up came together it's safe to say this version of the band gelled pretty quickly because Le Divorce looked to be in good spirits with smiles all around while playing. And the band's music isn't exactly happy fare. Baxter brought with her an ability to create texture and atmosphere on top of solid beats and a keen ear for matching moods. King has long been one of the most electrifying bass players in Denver -- if you ever saw Ideal Fathers, you know. And while this music didn't invite jumping around like a maniac, he mouthed the words along with Kitty Vincent and Joe Grobelny.

For "I Shout," Grobelny's guitar sounded like there was a distorted ripple to his tone similar to what you hear on Mogwai's "Rano Pano." And the rise and fall of emotional and sonic intensity in that performance was impressive. The transitions between songs were smooth and contained what sounded like music to occupy some of that space. Still intact was the awkward joking that Vincent and Grobelny have kept up for over ten years in their bands but this time they both seemed comfortable with that joking because it's just part of who they are and it's always funny if you aren't completely devoid of a sense of absurdity and irony. Pretty sure Le Divorce ended on "Splinter Song," and here and elsewhere, Grobelny ably filled in on backing vocals as Ryan Stubbs had in the past.

Tom Murphy
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake at City Hall. More photos from Gathering of the Clouds 2012.
Something must be in the water because everyone seemed to have reinvented their band in some subtle but profound and hard to pinpoint manner. Having seen Snake Rattle Rattle Snake from pretty close to the beginning I thought I knew what to expect. But this time around it's obvious the group has spent some time working on its textures and separation of sounds. Sharp shimmers, icy atmospheres, layered rhythms and Hailey Helmericks has learned to harness her powerful and evocative voice in a way that has become finely expressive with that push still projecting her smart and poetic lyrics forward with emotional force.

Wil Helmericks clearly occupied the higher frequencies but there was such an undertone of menace and brooding fire that it really caught your attention. And of course Doug Spencer has that totally unique style of playing that is deeply rhythmic and cutting while occupying sonic territory across a broad spectrum. James Yardley and Andrew Warner created a driving and sometimes seething bottom end that gave the music a lot of its power and presence. Warner has fully integrated his acoustic set with the electronic percussion in a way that shouldn't remind one of Lol Tolhurst but does in a great way. Best moment of the set? The dark, beautifully edgy "Break the Same." In general, it was like seeing a band reborn in a better form than ever.


Personal Bias: Already liked all the bands on the bill.

Random Detail: Ran into local man about town Fred Case at the show.

By the Way: First two nights of this festival had strong performances by everyone involved.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

Location Info


City Hall

1144 Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: Music

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Livin' it up
Livin' it up

Apparently, a nerve has been hit.

Here is what Mr.Critic said in response to my comment:         

 Duly noted.

Here, I see, is what he MEANT:

‎"Duly noted" is code for, "Your comment is BORING and lacks perspective, basic humanity and imagination." Sometimes it means "Your sudden, painful death would make the world a better place." But mostly it means that first one. He continues:Tom Murphy ‎"Duly noted" is not backhanded. It's the only way you can tell someone on a blog to fuck off without your own invective being deleted. So you have to resort to "polite" language because people in America are passive aggressive babies who think they have the right to take you to task, anonymously, because it's the internet. And it's not worth getting into a fight with some moron over some offhand, shitty thing they say. So you condense a "real" response to something short, to the point and "polite." Unfortunately the days of colorful invective are relegated to special situations. I'm very direct, even when I use sarcasm and irony. 

I stand by my comment. Only 2/3 of a show was reviewed.  Even this moron saw that only 2 days of a 3 day even was reviewed. Shitty?  Was my comment not factual?  Did I hurt your feelings?  Waaaahhhh.  Grow the fuck up.

Livin' it up
Livin' it up

"By the Way: First two nights of this festival had strong performances by everyone involved."   A little misleading.  The third night w/Twin Guns and Spindrift was as strong as the first two nights. This show deserved a complete review of all 3 nights.

A non my ous
A non my ous

 Tom is a solid writer and for you to "take him to task" for one statement is pretty absurd. It's like your opinion man.

Livin' it up
Livin' it up

Well, this "solid" writer should have reviewed the WHOLE event.  Did you read my first comment?  Did you understand it?  It is, and has been, my opinion that the whole show should have been covered in the review.  'Take him to task for one statement?'  Instead of writing, "Only 2 nights were covered by WW", he makes a dismissive comment to someone responding to his column, and spews hateful vitriolic diatribe, to whomever read his crap away from WW. "Your sudden painful death, would make the world a better place", "Fuck off" "Shitty thing to say", THIS is NORMAL to you??  For a reader expressing an opinion?  To me, it is the rant of a passive aggressive psycho.  You are probably some band member.  You and the rest of the band buddies can engage in all of the mutual masturbation that you care to. If you have an audience, you respect them.  Or should.  Whether from a stage, or in print. To me, the dean of the scene, (my words, not anyone else's) shows himself to be a nasty, arrogant, socially awkward, and unacceptable asshole. Period.  MAN.

Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy

It's called venting on Facebook. You sure taught me, didn't ya.

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